By Peg Craig
Before their regular meeting on May 4, the St. Michael-Albertville School Board held a work session to hear Director of Business Services Kris Crocker and Director of Administrative Services Douglas Birk discuss the effects of the pandemic on the district. Because they have been maintaining a healthy fund balance they expect to withstand the losses in the short term. It is likely that the Community Education budget will be hardest hit because they are providing childcare for emergency and essential workers for free during the usual school hours. Community Education will not be collecting fees for the programs which have been canceled. Community Education staff, if not working elsewhere, have been assigned to the childcare programs.
Birk said, ”Since the start of the COVID-19, the District has taken all possible measures to ensure the continued employment status of all permanent and non-probationary school staff. This commitment has helped ensure our ability to serve the community, essential workers, deliver meals, and deliver quality distance learning. It also reflects our continued compassion and commitment to our team.”
The teachers and aides continue to work on providing distance learning.
The food service workers are providing lunches and breakfasts for students and the custodians are getting an early start on summer cleaning and maintenance projects. It is likely that the custodians will be furloughed later in the summer. Their jobs will be retained for the fall and they will be able to collect unemployment for the time they are not working.
The School Board could not take any action during the work session but will continue to receive updates in the weeks ahead. After the meeting Birk said, “This COVID-19 environment has brought a range of unforeseen expenses and revenue impacts never before experienced by public school districts. As we navigate this environment and focus on providing learning to all students and maintaining our commitments to staff, we are planning and projecting against a range of variables that are very difficult to predict. The STMA District, with its solid fiscal foundation and policies, is now able to move forward without any immediate crisis but must beginning prudently planning for the future. As we weigh these options, we always keep students at the forefront of what we do.”
School Board Chairperson Drew Scherber opened the meeting by recognizing teachers, school nurses, and food service employees. In past years they would have also received recognitions in their schools. School Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault thanked the teachers for their “dedication, perseverance, can-do attitude, creativity, innovation and hard work” they have put in to provide distance learning for their students.
Board member Larry Sorenson read a proclamation honoring the school nurses for “their efforts in meeting the needs of today’s students by improving the delivery of health care in schools …helping students to stay healthy, in school, and ready to learn.” Currently the nurses are serving the two district childcare centers including taking the temperature of every child when they arrive. The food service workers were also honored. They continue to provide “grab and go” meals for all students under 18. Foucault reported that in one week they distributed 13,320 meals. These meals are free and are subsidized with Minnesota State funds.
STMA High School Principal Bob Driver spoke to the School Board about possible arrangements to honor graduating seniors. They are still waiting for Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) guidelines before making final plans. The goal is to “have everyone involved with some kind of ceremony at some point.”
Driver has been able to discuss possibilities with student council seniors and they are considering prerecording the parts of the graduation ceremony. Driver said that when guidelines are set by the MDE and Health Department they will have a better idea of what is possible.
Board member Hollie Saville asked if short narratives for every senior could be filmed along with their senior photo to be posted on social media for the STMA community to see.
STRATEGIC PLAN UPDATE
Foucault reported the progress on the District’s Strategic Plan at the end of three years. There are four strategic directions and all planning is tied to these goals. She listed the highlights of her report. The first goal is to “Engage in the continuous improvement of teaching and learning.” Foucault said some of the money from the recent referendum was used to add computers throughout the schools. These have been used in delivering distance learning during the pandemic. Tests and test dates have been examined and, when necessary, changed to meet the needs of the students.
The second direction is “Engage in the continuous improvement of student support systems and programs.” Foucault reported that task forces have looked at Advanced Placement opportunities and advanced math for junior high students and decided that the STMA programs are rigorous and appropriate. The Bright Beginnings program was adjusted to improve kindergarten readiness. Counselors were added to provide social, emotional and mental health support to all students and social and emotional skill building was embedded in the curriculum.
The third goal is “Align people and organizational resources to sustain district success.” The effectiveness and efficiency of every department was reviewed be sure that the district was operating as well as possible. A policy review committee has been recommending changes to update district policies.
The last goal is “Cultivate family and community connections and increase advocacy in support of the district mission.” An effort had been made to get more people into the district buildings for activities and events. The new dome over the football field has been a success and has been rented almost continually. Foucault has visited 191 businesses in Albertville and St. Michael to thank them for their support.